Change the narrow focus on grade-level proficiency

Earlier this year, in his final State of the Union address, President Barak Obama asked, “How do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity in this new economy?” Education is a powerful tool to help do that. However, we know that this is not necessarily the case for children with extraordinary gifts and talents—particularly those bright students who are racial and ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged, or learning English as a second language.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) makes positive steps toward improving the learning lives of the 3–5 million gifted students (who account for between 6 and 10 percent of the U.S. student population). An upcoming paper by Matthew C. Makel, Michael S. Matthews, Scott J. Peters, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, and Jonathan A. Plucker, leading researchers in the field of gifted education, shows that 15–45 percent of these students enter the late elementary classroom each fall already performing at least one year ahead of expectations.

In his recent letter to U.S. Education Secretary John King, NAGC Board President George Betts said, “The failure to support our best students, including supporting those who have the ability to become high achievers and challenging those who already are above grade level, has serious implications for the nation’s future.”

NAGC’s comments on accountability and state plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by ESSA, address proposed regulations 200.13, 200.14(b)(5), 200.30, and 200.31. They include:

  • NAGC recommends that the proposed rule encourage states to see “proficiency” as a minimum rather than an end goal.
  • NAGC recommends the addition of the phrase “at a minimum” before every mention of “grade-level proficiency” in § 200.13(a).
  • NAGC urges the Department of Education to allow SEAs and LEAs to set accelerated interim progress measures for students who achieve growth at a faster pace.
  • In addition to the “access to advanced coursework” indicator, NAGC recommends that the department provide additional equity indicators in the proposed regulation.
  • Proposed regulations 200.30 and 200.31, regarding state and district report cards, indicate that reporting disaggregated student achievement data is required to be included on state and LEA report cards. NAGC strongly encourages the Department of Education to hold SEAs and LEAs accountable for implementing this element of reporting.

It’s imperative that we change the narrow focus on grade-level proficiency to ensure that all children with extraordinary gifts and talents maximize their full potential—and that we achieve equity, consistency, and quality in gifted education programs across the nation.

Editor's note: This is part of a series of blog posts that is collaboratively published every week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and National Association for Gifted Children. Each post in the series exists both here on the NAGC Blog and Fordham's Flypaper.